The Alberti Family Reliquary

Giuseppina Alberti was a girl of many talents- one of which was her ability to spot beautiful jewellery. She had spent much of her life examining her family’s large jewel collection, and had become known amongst some of the nobler families in the city to have an uncanny ability to identify the differences between true jewellery and impeccable forgery, and to analyse the jewellery to their fullest extent. Her father, Albertino, would sometimes take her with him to his friend’s palaces in order to show them up. But Giuseppina did not mind, because she was a respectful and respectable girl, and loved her father very much.

One day, Giuseppina was inspecting a piece in her family’s collection. It was a beautiful pendant with her family crest on it, but with slight differences. For example, the jewels on it were red, not the Alberti blue, and there were six chains spreading out from the centre instead of four. The pendant was also more of a reliquary, but she found she could not open the piece. She was thinking on this when her father came into the room where the jewellery was being kept.

Giuseppina, being a curious girl, asked her father where the piece had come from, for she had never seen its like anywhere in the collection.

“This container was handed down from my family and has been in our possession for many generations, but there was never a set explanation for its existence. My grandfather told me that the creation was brought into our family around the time of the Crusades, when our forebears fought for the Holy Land, but it was never proven,” he took the reliquary from her and saw, too, that it would not open. “Well, perhaps we should take it to a jeweler and see if they are able to open it up?”

But Giuseppina was headstrong and refused to let someone else do the work she felt it was her destiny to do. “No, father,” she replied, “I will find a way to open the reliquary. Until I can find a way to do so, I would like to wear it. Would that be alright?”

Her father, her being his youngest child and only one still with him, allowed her to do so. She put the reliquary on a chain and did not take it off until she finally opened up the reliquary.

Something should be said, before the story reaches its climax, about the time between her putting on the reliquary and her opening it up, as some very strange coincidences occurred.

Giuseppina went to church every day to pray and she encountered no problems. Every day her and her nurse, Carolina, would walk to church in the morning, stay until noon, and then return later that night for vespers. The day after Giuseppina found the reliquary, she and Carolina were walking through the streets of Florence, talking, when all of a sudden Giuseppina heard a crash from behind her. She turned around and saw that a harpsichord had crashed to the floor from an apparatus that was attempting to get it to a higher floor through the window. Her nurse began to chastise, very angrily, the men operating the machinery, but Giuseppina was suspicious of this occurrence. The men looked very capable, and she did not imagine they had done this on purpose. She deemed it a curious accident, since it was only the first of its kind.

Later that week, around the same time of day (but in a different place, as Carolina did not think their usual way safe after the harpsichord incident) Giuseppina was about to cross a road to get to the piazza where her church was when part of Giuseppina’s bonnet blew off her head and behind her. Carolina was a few steps behind her, and luckily caught the bonnet, but Giuseppina had stopped in her tracks just before the road. If she hadn’t, the horse-drawn cart that was passing right by her would have crashed right into her, killing her.

Giuseppina was working night and day to open the locket. She had tried everything- prising it open with her fingernails, with a knife- she even debated using a small hammer to perhaps jar it into opening. Nothing had worked, and strange events seemed to keep happening- close encounters with death became real and frequent events in her life. In fact, two more strange coincidences had occurred that almost put her in death’s clutches. She was afraid to even go to church for fear of death. On day, while she was home, she discerned the cause of the reliquary’s inability to open: the two sides, very slightly but just enough to keep it closed, had been heated to a point where the gold had melted together. As soon as she saw this, she knew how to open the piece- she simply had to heat it carefully once more.

She lit a candle, put it at her table, sat down and began to heat the small knife she had been using. She would hold it over the fire for a few seconds and then put it into the latch, hoping to cut through it slowly but surely. After doing this about 10 times, the device popped open and a piece of parchment fell out. The writing was in an archaic form of Latin, but she could make it out enough to get the point. The paper, though impeccably small, told the story of the reliquary and why it was so important.

The reliquary had been created by Domenico Alberti, son of Ciro Alberti. She looked at the small vial situated in the golden pendant and saw that there was a red substance in it- something like blood. She kept reading the note, and it said that this was the blood of Christ- holy water had been used to clean the Holy Lance found during the Crusades, and as the priests dipped the lance in the water, it turned to blood. Domenico was charged with keeping the blood safe, for the men who had discovered it did not trust the other nobles, especially the Franks, who were fighting in the Holy Land. Domenico, who seemed to also have written the note, charged his family to keep the piece until a pope was put into power that the patriarch of the Alberti could trust. Giuseppina was astounded by this note and this whole event- it made sense that the crest was different, as it was probably the original design of the Alberti crest, possibly made to correspond more to the contents of the reliquary. Suddenly, her father burst into her room. She closed the reliquary quickly, putting the locket on the table.

“Giuseppina, there is someone here to see you,” he told her, seeming very astounded indeed, and ushering the person in. Giuseppina stood up and fixed her dress, unsure as to whom this could be.

Lo and behold, the person was none other than the highest ranking clergyman in Florence at the time, whose name shall not be mentioned.

“It is my understanding, my child, that you have found your great great grandfather’s reliquary,” He said this with a subtle level of disgust, presumably because the most holy relic of Christendom, up to that point, had been found and touched by a woman. He and Giuseppina looked at the container, and noticed at the same time that the small note was left beside it- he knew she had opened it and had discovered the repository’s contents.

Giuseppina, awestruck, managed to stammer out a ‘yes’, just before the clergyman walked up to her and took the reliquary and the note off of the table she had been working on. He leaned towards her and whispered, “Tell no one of what you have found.” The tone in which this was said was ominous; as if she should be afraid for her life should she disobey the man. She nodded her head in agreement, and the clergyman walked out, bidding her father a good day.

Though she was asked many questions by her father and anyone else who had heard of the clergyman’s visit, she would say nothing to them about the reliquary. Oddly enough, the brushes with death seemed to stop after this encounter. Though she never told anyone this, Giuseppina believed that someone under the clergyman’s employ was to kill her, and the reliquary, a gift from God, had been the charm that had stopped every attempt. Though Giuseppina was not the type to spend her life in fear, she did begin to sleep with her knife under her pillow, in any case.

And so ends the story of the Alberti reliquary.

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